A leftist Mexican lawmaker on Thursday presented a bill to legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana, adding to a growing chorus of Latin American politicians who are rejecting the prohibitionist policies of the United States. The bill is unlikely to win much support in Congress since a strong majority of Mexicans are firmly against legalizing drugs, but may spur a broader debate in Mexico after two U.S. states voted to allow recreational use of marijuana last week.
Now that the voters in Colorado and Washington have approved marijuana legalization initiatives, attention has turned quickly to questions surrounding implementation—and in particular to speculation over how the federal government might react. This is entirely understandable, since it is no secret that the newly approved state initiatives conflict with federal law.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday the federal government still hasn't decided whether to take action to block new laws legalizing marijuana in her state and Colorado. Gregoire met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole in Washington, D.C. She told Cole she would prefer to know "sooner rather than later," because Washington state is getting ready to decriminalize pot, which is still illegal under federal law.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon says the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in two U.S. states limits that country's "moral authority" to ask other nations to combat or restrict illegal drug trafficking. Calderon says the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado represents a fundamental change that requires the rethinking of public policy in the entire Western Hemisphere.
A group of Latin American leaders declared that votes by two U.S. states to legalize marijuana have important implications for efforts to quash drug smuggling, offering the first government reaction from a region increasingly frustrated with the U.S.-backed war on drugs. The declaration by the leaders of Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica did not explicitly say they were considering weakening their governments' efforts against marijuana smuggling, but it strongly implied the votes last week in Colorado and Washington would make enforcement of marijuana bans more difficult.
With two US states - Washington and Colorado - voting to legalise the recreational use of marijuana, a similar liberal approach towards mild intoxicants in India is up for debate. Consumption of marijuana and other cannabis derivatives such as bhang dates back hundreds of years with strong roots in Indian culture. Untill 1985, marijuana and other cannabis derivatives were legally sold in the country through authorised retail shops. The enactment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in that year - carried out under pressure from the US - pushed the marijuana trade underground.
The story of the Mexican drug war has generally focused on the violence perpetrated by drug cartels and the apparent inability to bring so many criminals to justice. Unfortunately—while it’s true many have evaded justice—there remain many more people who use drugs and those with very low levels of involvement in the drug trade, who have been swept up in recent crackdowns.
Last week was a momentous week, the beginning of the end, perhaps, of a national depravity – the "war on drugs". The voters of Colorado and Washington passed measures to legalise marijuana, amounting to local shifts, for the moment. So we shouldn't delude ourselves that the country will be transformed overnight, but the public thinking, the public spirit is being transformed. Finally, there is a growing realisation that this "war" has produced nothing but a legacy of failure. And who wants to be associated with failure?
What two American states, Washington and Colorado, have decided to do - legalize recreational use of marijuana - was the norm in India until 1985. All cannabis derivatives - marijuana (grass or ganja), hashish (charas) and bhang - were legally sold in this country. As a matter of fact, most state governments had their own retail shops to sell these drugs. India has known, consumed and celebrated ganja, charas and bhang for millennia. (See also: Recreational use of marijuana: Of highs and laws)
At the International Conference on Alternative Development (ICAD), held in Lima from 14 to 16 November, the Peruvian Government supported by the UNODC claimed that currently in Peru the surface planted with alternative development crops is superior to the amount of coca, used for the production of cocaine. Allegedly, the 80 thousand hectares with cocoa and coffee have successfully replaced an illicit economy, or prevented it to establish itself.
Senior administration officials acknowledged that they are wrestling with how to respond to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, which directly violates federal drug law and is sparking a broad debate about the direction of U.S. drug policy. The most likely outcome will be that the Justice Department will prevent the laws from going into effect by announcing that federal law preempts the state initiatives, which would make marijuana legal for recreational use. But the White House and the Justice Department have not made a decision yet.
Latin American drug policies have made no dent in the drug trade; instead they have taken a tremendous toll on human lives. In 2009, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) embarked on an ambitious project to document the real impact of Latin America’s “war on drugs” and to show its human cost through the video testimonies of the victims themselves.
Should marijuana be treated like alcohol? Or should it remain in the same legal category as heroin and the most dangerous drugs? Votes by Colorado and Washington to allow adult marijuana possession have prompted what could be a turning point in the nation's conflicted and confusing war on drugs. Both states are holding off on plans to regulate and tax the drug while waiting to see whether the Justice Department would assert federal authority over drug law. (See also: Marijuana prosecutions dropped in anticipation of legalization)
Roger A. Roffman, professor emeritus of social work at the University of Washington, a sponsor of I-502
09 November 2012
The historic measure to regulate and tax marijuana in Washington State deserves to be looked at closely as a model of how legalization ought to be designed and implemented elsewhere in America. We've turned a significant corner with the approval of Initiative 502, which purposefully offers a true public health alternative to the criminal prohibition of pot. (See also: I-502 Fact Sheet from ACLU)
The election results this week from Washington, Colorado, Massachusetts and Arkansas demonstrate that public opinion about cannabis has moved much faster than the positions of elected officials. Despite what the voters in Washington and Colorado did, growing and selling marijuana will remain federal felonies. The federal reaction is crucial, and at the moment unpredictable. We probably won’t know until a new attorney general takes office.
No sooner had the voters of Colorado and Washington passed measures to legalise marijuana than the predictions began: visions – both overexcited and apocalyptic – of busloads of stoned tourists turning the states into Rocky mountain or Pacific north-west versions of Amsterdam. However such speculation may be premature. There are a few more hurdles before legally buying and selling marijuana in the US can become reality.
In November 2011 I was invited by the Thai government to take part in an international delegation to develop a set of UN International Guiding Principles on Alternative Development. Our work began with a five-day journey along the Thai-Burma border to see first-hand the development programs that have been successful in virtually eliminating poppy production in that country. Over 100 government officials and experts from 28 countries visited the Thai “Royal Project,” which has research stations and development projects in five Northern provinces of the country.